What I love about Chianti, besides the value prices, are the reliably high acidities, tart red fruit, and savory elements, suggestive of herbs like tarragon, and aromas reminiscent of a forest hike. These characteristics, when combined with food typical of the region–rich pastas, tomato based sauces and braised meats–create unbeatable pairings. For me, these wines truly represent the soul of Tuscany, reminding me of walks in its olive groves and memorable meals in which the wine and food combine to create sublime moments of true satisfaction.
I had the opportunity last week to taste wines from five producers whose vineyards are all located in volcanic regions of Italy. I was impressed by the quality, characterfulness and relative value of most of those wines. Rather than their primary connection being their volcanic soils, however, I suspect what caused these wines to be so intriguing and of such high quality is that they are all represented by the same California importer.
The single most fun wine event for me so far this year, as well as the most excessive (i.e., 26 wines amongst 10 people), was a mid-week dinner featuring a host of mature Italian wines—Barolos, Brunellos and Amarones—along with some tasty white Burgundies as starters.
In the week we celebrate Valentine’s Day it seems only fitting for a wine blog to acknowledge that the key ingredient in many of the world’s most extraordinary wines is love.
The old Barolos (and Barbarescos—the other great manifestation of the Nebbiolo grape from the neighboring hills) that really excite me are the traditional style Barolos (or “Baroli,” if you want to use proper Italian). Most producers made them this way up through the early 1980s: long macerations (often up to a month); submerged cap fermentations; and long aging in neutral, older Slavonian oak casks (known as botti).
Quality improvement has been the watchword for most of the wine world over the past few decades. As a result, those of us who love wine have access to better wines, from virtually all regions, than we’ve ever had before. A vast, region-wide example of conscious planning to make better wines is the huge project the leading organization of Chianti producers in Italy, the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, launched nearly 25 years ago.
I’m very excited at this new option for U.S. wine lovers to buy direct from some of Europe’s greatest. I also think Kevin and his team have done an admirable job in setting up a model that’s as transparent, and simply aimed at connecting producers with their U.S. fans, as possible.